Sciatica Relief: 3 Proven Treatments to Ease Back and Leg Pain

Back pain shooting down your leg is debilitating.  Dealing with sciatica is no fun.  You want sciatic relief and you deserve it.  Thankfully, there are treatments your physical therapist will help you with to relieve your sciatica pain.

Irritation of your sciatic nerve causes sciatica.  Your sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body.  It begins in your lower back.  The nerve passes through your buttock and down the back of your thigh.  Branches of your nerve even extend down into your lower leg and feet.  When your sciatic nerve becomes irritated and painful it is very stubborn to improve.

What Causes Sciatica?

Injuries to many different structures cause sciatica. This includes arthritis of your spine, muscle strains, and spinal stenosis.  The most common cause is an injury to your intervertebral disk.  You have probably heard the term, “pinched nerve”.  However, nerves are continuously being pinched during your normal daily activity.  A pinched nerve does not always cause you pain.

What are the Symptoms of Sciatica?

Sciatica symptoms

Sciatica is a symptom.  It is not a diagnosis.  Sciatica causes a deep ache or cramping sensation.  You may also experience tightness, sharp pain, numbness, or tingling.  As a result, you may experience any of these symptoms along the course of your sciatic nerve.  Your pain may be worse while sitting or lying.  Other people experience more pain while standing or walking.

Who Gets Sciatica?

It is unclear how common sciatica actually is.  Estimates suggest up to 37% of people will experience sciatica pain during their life.  Sciatica pain is associated with smoking, obesity, female sex, work-related factors, and poor overall health.  Both physical and psychological factors play a role in the incidence and your recovery.

Treatment for Sciatica Relief

Treatment for sciatica is individualized.  Research shows inconsistent and short-lived symptom relief with treatments such as medications, injections, and surgery.  Physical therapists perform a comprehensive physical examination to determine the best course of treatment for each individual.  Common physical therapy treatments for sciatica relief include mechanical traction, manual physical therapy, and specific exercises.


mechanical traction

Traction is a form of treatment that seeks to separate or stretch apart the vertebrae of your spine.  This alleviates compression on the nerves in your back.  Mechanical devices used by your physical therapist are common.  Many people experience short-term sciatica relief with traction.   This is very helpful when pain is constant and severe. However, the best research suggests traction has little impact on your long-term pain.

Manual Physical Therapy for Sciatica Relief

Mobilization or manipulation techniques stretch tight joints and muscles around your sciatic nerve. Treatments designed to improve joint mobility are more effective than those attempting to reduce muscle spasms.  Physical therapists perform manual therapy to the lumbar spine, pelvis, and hip joints for sciatica relief.

Specific Exercises for Sciatica

Individually prescribed exercise is the most important treatment for sciatica relief.  Your physical therapist will perform a comprehensive physical examination.  An individualized exercise program is then developed.  Because sciatica is a symptom and not a specific diagnosis, there are no universal exercises that help all people.  In 90% of cases, pain improves when the right exercises are prescribed.  Below are a few exercises that our patients find helpful.

Sciatic Relief: Get Some Help from Your Physical Therapist

Sciatica pain occurs anywhere along the course of your sciatic nerve.  You can have dramatic sciatica relief with the right treatments.  Only a small percentage of people will require injections or surgery.  Your physical therapist will use manual therapy and exercise to alleviate your pain. Call us today if you would like help getting started.  Since 2007, the physical therapists at BSR have been helping the people of Southern Ocean County move without pain.

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